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Sunday, 11 April 2021

Not Much Going On - 22nd March to 4th April, 2021

Not Much Going On - or, depending on one's point of view, Too Much Going On!

I'd intended to produce this blog post more than a week ago, and just cover the last week in March. However, this was not to be, for a number of reasons, most of which have to do with working on the infrastructure of our abode. In 2019, after a couple of weeks in hospital, I was rather unwell for virtually the whole of the summer and little maintenance was done on house and garden. The after-effects of this illness were still worryingly apparent through most of 2020, and so I was taking it easy as far as matters of physical exertion were concerned, for fear of a relapse during the Covid crisis.

Much of my time this spring, when we have had fair weather, has been spent trying to reclaim the garden, with the bulk of the work in the past two weeks being in taking down two huge areas of ivy that had got totally out of control.  The largest of these, which was 5 metres wide by 4 metres high had started invading the neighbours' roof. Blackbirds had attempted to nest on a regular basis, but the nests tended to fail, and there was always the danger of fledglings getting taken by visiting cats. The ivy was also attractive to bees, spiders, and Holly Blue butterflies, so it was with a sad heart that I decided it had to go - entirely. Most of the two weeks was spent trying to get the roots up. The job is now finished, but I now have to dispose of the remains! The bed in front of the wall will now be planted with invertebrate-friendly flowering plants.

Also this week we managed to get a plumber in to rectify a grand total of six plumbing issues that had been stacking up, waiting for the pandemic to quieten down a bit, but needed attention - two of them urgent (a leaking pipe in ther kitchen that tended to flood the kitchen floor, and a bath hot tap that suddenly decided it wouldn't open beyond a trickle! 

Anyway, the result of all this is that I've not been out birding except for one failed attempt, and I have not spent much time observing the birds in the garden, which have tended to stay away anyway because of the amount of time that I have spent in the garden.

So here's what little I did manage to muster during the two weeks.

Tuesday, 23rd March

We were, and still are, regularly being visited by Siskins. I'm not sure how long these will be with us for. Historically, we have visits most years and they are usually gone to their summer breeding grounds at some time between early and late April.

Siskin  (Spinus spinus) (female) - garden on 23rd March, 2021
Wednesday, 24th March

Having had a 9a.m. eye appointment, the optician sent me direct to the Eye Casualty department at Leicester General Hospital as he thought that I might have a tear (as in rip) in my eye. Here I spent most of my day while Lindsay patiently waited in the car park - I'd been unable to drive myself as I'd had drops in my eyes to dilate the pupils. I was, eventually, given the all-clear.

Because of this, little was seen in the garden but I did put the moth trap out and the trail cams were also out, as always.

One of he trail cams (I deploy four each night) caught an altercation between two Hedgehogs.

The moth trap only came up with three moths of two species, with 2 x Hebrew Character (an extremely common moth) being a first for the year.

Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) - from garden on 24th March, 2021
Friday, 26th March

After being absent for several days, the female Blackcap put in a brief appearance, but was not photographed. The only shots taken were of a Long-tailed Tit. 

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - garden on 26th March.2021
Saturday, 27th March

The only remarkable aspect to this day was the arrival of five Siskin (2 male, 3 female) which were not photographed. I did, however, manage to get a shot of the two regularly visiting Stock Doves together.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 27th March, 2021
Sunday, 28th March

I think that, maybe, the person in the bungalow behind our house is trying to wind me up. Whenever I look out of our bedroom window after dark, I see an owl, faintly silhouetted against the light shining through the blinds at his window.

false owl - from our bedroom window
The first time I saw it I did a quick double-take. However, it is, in fact, the cover on their rotary washing line!  The strange thing is, it is always put on so that those 'ears' are facing our window!

Monday, 29th March

This was the only attempt at a birding walk I made in the fortnight featured in this post. My chosen destination was Saltersford Valley, and the experience was a disappointing one. My first disappointment was finding that the place seems to have suddenly become a destination for anglers, who were there with all their detritus scattered round about them. I was also disappointed by the dearth of birds to be seen, let alone photographed. The only shot I took was of an appealing clump of Marsh Marigold.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) - Saltersford Valley
Tuesday, 30th March

Disappointingly, Greenfinch had become a very scarce visitor to our garden. However, we have now started having occasional sightings once more. Although not a good shot, I cannot resist including this one 'just for the record'.

Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) (male) - garden on 30th March, 2021
That night, the moth trap went out, and I had a somewhat better catch than on previous attempts this year, with 30 months of 10 species recorded, Small Quaker being the most numerous (13). The following were new for the year (all to the same scale).
Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata) from garden on 30th March, 2021

Small Quaker (Orthosia cruda) - from garden on 30th March, 2021

Leek Moth (Acrolepiopsis assectella) - from garden on 30th March,2021

Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla) - from garden on 30th March,2021

Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) - from garden on 30th March, 2021
Happily, the next two were 'lifers' for me, although both classed as 'fairly common' locally. I just wish that the Satellite had been in better condition!
Satellite (Eupsilia transversa) - from garden on 30th March, 2021

Twin-spotted Quaker (Orthosia munda) - from garden on 30th March, 2021
Wednesday, 31st March
A beautiful sunny day brought four butterflies to the garden - three Small Tortoiseshells and a Peacock. I didn't manage any shots of the Peacock, which was in a fairly tatty condition.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - garden on 31st March, 2021
That night, the same trail cam as on my previous video clip caught another spat between Hedghogs, resulting in the water dish of one of the feeding stations getting upturned. If you have any doubt about the climbing abilities of Hedgehogs, observe the hog towards the end of the clip!
Sunday, 4th April
The last day of the week brought two Jackdaws to the garden, and three Siskin (2 male, 1 female). Only Siskin was photographed so I start and end this post with a Siskin image.

Siskin  (Spinus spinus) (male) - garden on 4th April, 2021
This brings me to the end of this blog post. Based on how little I've observed during this last week, I'm expecting to be offering an even thinner post next time, probably in about a week and a half's time. Thank you for your visit.
In the meantime, take great care and stay safe - - - Richard


  1. A bit of everything here Richard.
    Love the video footage. Can I ask why you put 4 cams out? I only have the one.
    I haven't put the moth trap out yet this year, next week looks like its going to start to warm up so I my deploy it.

    Great pic of the Stock Doves

    1. Hi Dave. Although I only have a small garden, I have several areas of interest to cover - two Hedgehog feeding stations, two Hedgehog houses, and a mini pond where hedgehogs drink and I also feed them Black Soldier Fly larvae on a ledge above that feature. I like to place cameras quite close to the action in an effort to identify individual hogs, so the first camera covers one feeding station and one house, the second camera covers the second feeding station, and the third camera covers the mini pond and the second house. The fourth camera was useless for the purpose for which it was bought as it has far too wide a field of vision and has some rather annoying other characteristics, but I have fairly recently started deploying it to look at overall comings and goings. I use all four always in video mode, but have recently been thinking of trying stills - far less drainage on batteries for a start!

      I keep looking at the weather forcast, hoping for a warm, still, and dry (but humid) night, or something approximating to that, but not looking too good for a few days yet.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

    2. Thanks for the update Richard

  2. I have not seen any Siskins this year so I am happy to view yours. The videos sort of played today so I enjoyed seeing the hogs. We have a new WiFi box, the speed is no better, and it is cheaper set up ! Our landline is now on the WiFi which means we do not have the phone line to pay for and calls to most countries on a landline are free!! Our phone bill was €80 odd last month because of calls to RSA so it is a big saving.

    I have seen few moths so far this years so it is good to see yours and I recognise a couple. We do have greenfinches this year and the odd goldfinch has appeared but nothing out of the ordinary.

    I also had a trip to to the optician this week. It was a check up for what looked like the start of cataracts 14 months ago, Thankfully they have told me there is no change and I only have to go back in 2 years. Those eye drops are horrible and it takes some time to wear off, Nigel also had to sit and wait for me and they were running late!

    Keep safe and I hope the garden and house problems are now over. Best wishes to you both, Diane

    1. I was interested to hear of your new telephone and internet arrangements, Diane. However, I don't think there is much chance of us going down that route as our internet, telephones (we have two lines, as in two numbers not just two numbers!), and television PVR are all BT supplied, and it would be a bit of a headache to change.

      Went to pick up my new specs today. Everything much better - except for when I'm at my computer, which I am, by Lindsay's reckoning, about four or five hours a day. The screen is far less clear at my usual working distance. Waiting to hear from the opticians as to what can be done about it.

      Main house and garden problems now all sorted, thank you. Just have to go once round the property to do start of season weeding, so another four or five days of dry weather should see us in good shape. Could do it in two if I had the stamina!

      My very best wishes to you and Nigel Stay safe - - - Richard

    2. I know what you mean about stamina, What I used to do in a day now takes me a week! The phone was simple, just a new WiFi box and the phone plugs into the box. I would imagine you could put two phones into it the same as we have two computers. They would be on their own connection I would guess - but yes I am only guessing. Have a good week, Diane

    3. Thank you, Diane. I'll have a look at that phone facility. I hope your week is going well - - - Richard

  3. Quite a bit of action there Richard. Nice footage of the Hedgehogs and nice to see the Siskins still about. I'm sure you'll be out soon ticking off all the migrants and dragonflies. Still awaiting my first dragonflies as well. Take care.

    1. Hi Marc. I'm beginning to think I might find time to have a trip out somewhere this week, weather permitting. However, it has just started snowing again, so who knows! If I do get out I'll probably go somewhat further afield than I have done for the past three months. I'm looking forward to it.

      THank you for your words of encouragement and the inspiration. Stay safe - - - Richard

  4. Funny owl. Why is it behind the window? The detached house and garden have a lot to do.Hope you are ok.

    1. We're fine, thank you, Anne. The explanation of the 'owl' is under the picture. Stay safe - - - Richard

  5. Hello Richard,
    the video with the hedgehogs are great, especially where one of them climbs you shouldn't believe how they stretch, now that the garden is shining again, the birds come to you again :-))
    Greetings Frank

    1. Hi Frank. Thank you for your kind words and visit.

      I am totally in awe of the insect hotel that you have constructed in your garden, so I hope that you will forgive the following:-

      PLEASE, EVERYBODY, READ THIS. Frank has constructed the most amazing insect hotel in his garden as part of a a wildflower meadow project. You can find a description on his blog, here :- The text is in German but, if you wait awhile the Google translate bar pops up and you can read about it in the language of your choice.

    2. Thank you for the great praise, unfortunately I don't have a Twitter account but I would be happy if you would like to publish it, I will in any case continue to report how it is accepted

    3. Posted on Twitter this evening Frank. Thank you!

  6. I hope you have fully recovered by now Richard and that your garden has passed the procedure hahahahaha ..... Very special that there is always an owl that you can see through the curtains !!!!
    Your birds make me very happy again and it is also time that we can go outside a little more and that it gets a bit warmer.
    Stay safe and healthy.
    Greetings, Helma

    1. Yes I'm fine now, thank you, Helma. That 'owl' is there every night!

      I'm delighted to report that I made it out for four hours this afternoon - a very enjoyable experience if not terribly productive. I suspect that the best of the photos from the session will be insects.

      Take great care and stay safe. There's a long way to go before this virus gets under control, partly because too many people can't get themselves under control.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  7. Fabulous Moths, and Siskins, and the Hedgehogs, beautiful Richard.

    1. Thank you, Bob. The Siskins are still with us as are the Hedgehogs. Best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  8. Hello Richard, I hope you are getting back to a normal routine. I love the video of the hogs. The last time I saw hogs behaving like that we ended up with lots of little ones running round the garden. Stay safe.

    1. Thank you, Mike. All is well and I even managed to get out for four hours this afternoon, although nothing terribly exciting was seen. It was also good to have a chat with people - at a distance - of course!

      I think that buffeting Hedgehogs is just a territory thing. Mating usually involves the male circling round the female for an extende time before she finally consents. A couple of nights ago I caught such an event on one of the cameras and it lasted a full 20 minutes - to long a video clip to include in a blog post! Take good care - - - Richard

  9. Some great moths there Richard.

    1. Thank you. I limit myself to putting out the moth trap no more than once a week, and only if the weather looks right. This is as much for my sake as that of the moths - sorting out the catch the next day can be very time-consuming for a novice like me! Stay safe - - - Richard

  10. Hello Richard, That was some great undertaking to get rid of the Ivy. The birds however will be sorry to miss this great nesting place. Also to have fixed the trouble with taps and leaks of water in the house must give you a good feeling. Still you had some nice birds vissit your garden like the Siskin and Long taled tit. And yes it is indeed great work Frank did with the insect hotel.

    1. It was a hard decision to take down that Ivy, Roos, but sadly it had to be done. Hopefully it will be replaced with things that are just as beneficial to wildlife. There's another wall of Ivy that's much smaller and that will be cut down to a manageable size and allowed to grow again. At the moment it is approximately a metre thick!

      I'm now starting to relax a bit, and do some of the things I want to do rather than have to do!

      Best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  11. That is a lot of ivy to get rid of, Richard, and I am sure it was quite a chore, especially digging up the roots. No doubt at times you thought they went to China! As for plumbing issues, at least they were confined to the house. At our age many have plumbing issues of an entirely different nature! I am sure that quarrelling hedgehogs is a good sign really. Feisty creatures are generally healthy creatures. The silhouette at the neighbour's window really does give the appearance of an owl. Perhaps you have a new species, Richard, the Silhouette Owl (Bubo peglerensis), rarely seen of course, and by very few! Stay well, stay safe. Best wishes to you and Lindsay. David

    1. Yes, David, plumbing issues are starting to influence the progress of my day, especially if I'm away from home for any length of time. The Hedgehogs seem to recover quickly from their encounters and, thankfully, it does not appear to put them off making return visits. They were playing the mating game a couple of nights ago. Yes, the Silhouette Owl is significantly rarer than the Teat Owl!

      Best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  12. Considering all that has been going on in your life, it is amazing you have been able to still provide the world with another quality blog post at all!

    Birds and moths and hedgehogs - Oh, My!

    The good news, for you and Lindsay, is that you now (hopefully!) have reliable plumbing. And what a comfort to know that even though you haven't been able to be out and about much, the natural world continues to proceed just fine on its own. I suppose that's why we enjoy observing nature - it is consistent and something we can rely upon in times of personal turmoil.

    All is good here except for a continuing issue of a terminally ill brother. Emotionally straining but a part of life's cycle. Again, nature provides solace.

    We wish you both all the best!

    1. Hi Wally. I hadn't realised that the brother was terminally ill. My condolences to all at such a difficult time.

      Thank you, once again, for your kind words. For us, things are looking up, and life is starting to regain an element of normality, but we're still being more cautious than most. We're also looking forward to getting the call for our second Covid vaccination for which the nominated maximum gap between shots of 12 weeks is due in 13 days. However, it seems that supply might have run dry!

      My very best wishes to you both - stay safe - Richard


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